The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 09, 2016 10:02 pm

Indiana VA centers will join monitoring program

Brian Francisco | Washington editor

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will participate in Indiana’s prescription drug monitoring program.

Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency announced Wednesday that controlled substances dispensed by VA facilities in the Hoosier State will be reported to the monitoring program INSPECT.

The program identifies controlled substances that patients are prescribed, the prescribers and the pharmacies where the drugs are obtained. Health care providers can access the database to track prescription drug abuse. 

The VA agreement will begin with a pilot program at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. Plans are for VA medical centers in Fort Wayne, Marion and Crown Point to eventually join the database.

Pence said in a statement that the agreement "is a continuance of our promise to ensure quality health care for our Hoosier veterans and a positive step forward in the fight against opioid abuse in Indiana."

Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd, introduced legislation last year requiring VA facilities to participate in states’ prescription drug monitoring programs. She filed the bill after the federal Drug Enforcement Agency began investigating purchases of painkilling drugs by the Marion VA medical center.

Walorski said Wednesday in a statement that the Indiana VA agreement is an "important step to combat the over prescription of powerful drugs to our nation’s bravest and finest. However, we still need participation from all VA facilities to ensure gaps in the system don’t leave veterans vulnerable."

In a conference call with reporters, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said the VA agreement "is a terrific first step. I hope other states will do it."

All VA pharmacies in 16 states participate in those states’ drug monitoring programs, and some pharmacies in 10 states do likewise, according to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Training and Technical Assistance Center.

"They have been steadily working on getting it rolled out across the country," the center’s Patrick Knue said about VA.

Until 2013, VA regulations prohibited the department from sharing patient information with prescription drug monitoring programs.

Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday approved an amendment that Donnelly offered to legislation that would authorize federal funds for programs that battle prescription opioid abuse and heroin use.

Donnelly’s amendment to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would encourage outreach coordinators visiting people who have been administered overdose reversal drugs by first responders. The coordinators would provide information on treatment for drug abuse.

Donnelly was asked whether senators used any studies or empirical data to support CARA.

"My empirical data was 189 people getting HIV in Scott County" from sharing drug injection needles, Donnelly said. "It was people dying of overdoses all over our state, and it was of legislators and sheriffs and police chiefs and moms and dads coming and saying, ‘We’ve lost our children; can you help?’ "  

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